It is a great honor and privilege to introduce myself as the chief executive officer of the Houston Landing.
I am Peter Bhatia, a journalist for almost 50 years, and most recently the editor of the Detroit Free Press and Michigan/Ohio editor for Gannett, parent company of the Free Press.
I am more than thrilled to be leading this effort and to return to Texas. I lived in Dallas in two stints, working at the Dallas Times Herald. My wife, Liz, began her journalism career in Austin, at the American-Statesman.
As CEO, I have responsibility for all of Houston Landing’s operations. But all my efforts will be in support of the site’s mission: bringing you unique, revelatory journalism that isn’t available elsewhere, and that reveals the character of this diverse, fascinating, dynamic city. As our editor, Mizanur Rahman, wrote in our debut newsletter, we will bring you essential news and information about Houston. We will be a watchdog on important institutions and government. We will be active in communities that often don’t receive the attention of the press. We will be relentless in pursuing news that makes a difference. We care deeply about all of the city and the counties surrounding it.
I have worked my entire career at for-profit newspapers and websites. I’ve lived in major cities and small towns, in all four time zones and in places as different as San Francisco and Cincinnati. I grew up amid the wheat fields of eastern Washington State and went to college in California.
But Houston Landing is different from traditional media. We are a nonprofit organization, funded by local philanthropy. We are nonpartisan. There will be no opinion pages or election endorsements. But we will be truth tellers, revealing what is actually happening here, without fear or favor of any particular partisan point of view. And we will not have a print product, showing all our work on this website.
We also will be different in how we present the news. We’ll use nontraditional story forms and the opportunity that the web gives us to make the news as accessible as it can be. We will be quick about it, but we will still offer depth.
The nonprofit, digital-only model is spreading across Texas and the country as the for-profit media has struggled and cut back.
I have experienced those cutbacks personally in multiple newsrooms over the last couple of decades as newsrooms shrank in response to difficult economic challenges.
The Texas Tribune, based in Austin, is one of the most prominent nonprofits to emerge in response to media layoffs. ProPublica, based in New York, is the foremost investigative nonprofit in the country. Here in Houston, we are building an ambitious local news and business operation from the ground up. The work was well underway before I, yes, Landed here, and will continue to grow as we add more journalists, audience specialists, web experts and all the important folks who work in areas such as human resources and finance. We also will be building a fundraising staff, to help us sustain our work for the long run. Our plans do not call for traditional advertising.
We are all about Houston, its people, its neighborhoods, its towering successes and its disheartening struggles. We will be in communities, just to listen, but also in pursuit of good stories. We will welcome feedback and the opportunity to hear about what is important to your community. We will be candid about Houston, about what is working and what is not.
Our work will be free for everyone. But if you want to support nonprofit journalism, we will be seeking your support as a reader of our work, and we will seek your financial support as we embark on this great adventure.
Welcome to Houston Landing. We’re just getting started, and we’re looking forward to the conversation.